The Songwriter’s Persona


Image courtesy of Rolling Stone

By Claire Prudhomme

The Weeknd is an R&B singer notorious for utilizing a variety of genres to conceptualize his music. He released his latest album last Friday and his sales have sky-rocketed since. 

In the title track of After Hours, listeners can hear everything they need to be entrapped in The Weeknd’s style and artform. His unrefined fearlessness and emotion is on display in his most recent album. He hypnotizes his audiences with magnifying swells of loneliness in the first two minutes of the song and transitions back to his mainstream narrative of lust, money and drugs with a deepening bass. The Weeknd’s entire appeal of this album seems to be about inner conflict in which audiences  don’t know whether to dance or cry. Though the title track is emotive, there is no need to wait until the second to last song to understand the deep levels of expansive emotion The Weeknd tries to sing about. After Hours narrates themes of loneliness with a reckless abandon that only R&B artists can achieve.

With his unusual album cover, The Weeknd created this album to convey a concept and a musical persona. He wanted a conceptual narrative that his fans had not seen from him before. In an interview with CR Fashion Book, he stated that he felt confident with the direction of the album. 

“There’s also a very committed vision and character being portrayed, and I get to explore different sides of me that fans have never seen,” he told the publication. 

If this album revealed a character, it definitely replicated a growth fans have seen in The Weeknd. With his first few songs, the listener can hear the distinct melodies of regret from childhood and a past life in his lyrics.

 “I used to pray when I was 16/ If I didn’t make it then I’d probably make my wrist bleed,” is a lyric from his song “Snowchild” that shows this nostalgia.

Then listeners are taken back to the distinct 80’s pop-style side of The Weeknd in the middle of his album with songs like “Escape from LA,” “Heartless,” and the hit song “Blinding Lights.” This side of The Weeknd is similar to what he released in his album Starboy where he initiated a superficial conversation with the pop genre. In these songs, he explores a youthful and desiring persona involved with sex, drugs, and money. He then ends his album with songs like “After Hours” and “Until I Bleed Out.” These songs show an unapologetic growth, gritty sadness and severe anxiety that was ignored in the middle of the album. He explores this anxiety in his song “Until I Bleed Out” with a narrative stating “I can’t move, I’m so paralyzed/I’m so paralyzed.”

The Weeknd exposes gritty emotions and the pain of life through synthesizers and more, changing and twisting what we typically perceive as R&B. Though the Weeknd called this album a character, these depths of emotion can only be pulled from an authentic personal perspective. His tonalities and vocals aren’t just what makes this album so successfully genuine, his raw emotions respectfully correlate with the pulsing synthetic sounds across all of his songs.
It is hard to tell where and how his music will impact people the most, but the nature of After Hours is that of a universal album that can be emotionally felt by many.

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